I love Ethiopian Airlines!
I flew domestic from Gonder to Lalibela and to Axum then to Addis Ababa.
Service was pretty good, no food on short flights but you can request for a snack or drink and they'll be very happy to provide.
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa's oldest and most established airline, known for its great service and in-flight entertainment on its 767s.
Bangkok, Beijing, Washington DC are just some of its international destinations...
P.S. For the misinformed or uninitiated: YES YOU DO GET FOOD ON BOARD! AND ETHIOPIA IS NOT ALL ABOUT FAMINE!!!
Taking buses in Ethiopia is a memorable experience. Something to remember, not only for the neck and back pain, but also because there is always something unique on each ride: once you get stucked in the mud and have to push the bus out, the next a cow comes on the way and gets hit, the next a tyre is broken, or maybe the engine...
Anyway, after all those hours and incidents you get to know your trip mates, in spite of the language barriers, and that makes the trip a real human experience.
Warning: if you have back pains or claustrophobia, avoid the buses!
Travelling by bus in Ethiopia lets you enjoy the landscapes and know some local people. Long distance buses (6-12 hours) stop just once for lunch (except the 2-3 pissing stops). At those stops there is only very basic local restaurants. Expect nothing but injera there, or maybe some biscuits and water in the street stalls.
In the pic you can see me sharing a lunch with my bus mate and his family.When the bus stopped they took me to the restaurant and shared their food with me. It was a giant inhera (fasting food) that I shared with his mother and brothers. I invited them at the end. Inviting in Ethiopia is a pleasure, as the whole meal was about 4 USD for all of us!!
If you travel in the rainy season (I did, july-september) you will have a few incidents on the road, mud on the tracks, mountains that fall and cut the road, etc... In these cases, people go out of the bus and help the truck stucked to get out. All passengers help carrying stones, we put them under the stucked truck wheels and push to get it out. Nevertheless, it takes no longer than 30-40 minutes to solve the problem.
It might be useful to pay a small kid ETB2 at most to reserve a seat for you on the buses as boarding can be a nightmare! You'll need to wrestle each other off, even women AREN'T spared! There was this elderly lady who was shoved and it was shocking for me to see that male chivalry isn't at all common...
As kids are smaller in size, it's easier for them to squeeze between the shoving crowd... and they really SHOVE and WRESTLE HARD!
This is recommended for the more popular routes originating in Addis Ababa e.g. Addis Ababa > Bahar Dar.
BUT they might be picked on by the older boys, who are larger in size. I've seen this young kid practically yanked off the seat which he was reserving for another traveler... and thrown off the bus. It happens...
Buses in Ethiopia are regulated and the drivers are not allowed to run after dark, around 7-8pm and don't be surprised if you get dumped, along with other passengers, in a god-forsaken town with no decent accommodation...
It happened to me, on my way from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar, which would be a 10-11hr journey. We started in the morning, but due to several delays along the way, we ended up at 2hrs behind time. The driver pulled over at Dangala (a stopover town) and I put up in a bug-infested room for ETB12.
And even though the driver said the bus will leave at 4am, i woke up at 4am only to find that i'm the only waiting in the freezing cold. The other passengers appeared 1.5hrs later... and the bus resumed its journey at 6am.
If you don't want this to happen, it'd be prudent to break up your journey to more manageable distances... at least you know the town/city you'll be putting up in.
Ethiopia is a huge country. So the quickest way to go around is to fly with Ethiopian Airlines. There are domestic flights from Addis Abeba to 20 other towns, like Bahir Dar, Gonder, Aksum, Lalibela, Arba Minch and Jinka. It's fast and cheap.
For travelling by road there are buses between all major towns. To reach smaller towns and villages, you can use minibuses, 4 WDs or pickup trucks.
In Addis Abeba you can also arrange several tours. Doing the historical route to the north by minibus will take two weeks. Going south to visit the villages and tribes in the Lower Omo Valley and the lakes in the Rift Valley by 4WD will take also about two weeks.
1. You can save a bit if you don't book the taxi from the airport taxi personnel.
Instead, walk out of the terminal, and you'll see a row of blue taxis. The yellow or cream-colored ones are managed by agencies. These tend to be more expensive.
2. Taxis are a lot cheaper if hired by the hour. Remember to negotiate before getting in. Ask around for the approximate price to know where you stand.
Sky bus is the best bus company in Ethiopia. It is considered to be the fastest and this is true. Locals complain that they cause a lot of accidents in the countryside roads where a lot of people walk for long distances. They are the most luxurious in Ethiopia and the most expensive, too. Although they would assure you there is a bathroom in the bus, which is true, it is locked up in the whole journey... so carry a roll of toilet paper and be prepared to get used in using the countryside for your needs...You will be lucky if there are bushes around where the bus stops....
For the long trips you will pay about 15US dollars.
Their offices are housed on the groundfloor of Taitu Hotel.
Tel (251 111)568080/568585
Salam Bus has softer seats and this is very useful on the bumpy roads of the country...They are 2-3 dollars cheaper than Sky Bus but they do their job very well.
Their offices are near Mesquel Square.
They are both preferable to local transport which is both too long and too bumpy and people make a lot of noise, and carry a lot of different things and sometimes animals, which makes the trip really exhausting!
Ethiopian is probably the best African based airline. For long haul they have modern and comfortable planes. Their short haul flights use older small planes and you get a basic service. What makes them great is that they have an extensive destination network within Ethiopia and all across Africa. You can reserve a seat without a deposit at their offices in Addis Ababa and pay later. I found the ground and air staff to be friendly and helpful. They are usually right on schedule.
You can also join their ‘Sheba Miles’ frequent flyer programme and check/buy International flights on-line.
If you need help buying or reserving domestic flights, ring their Addis Ababa Branch on +251-11-665 6666. They all speak excellent English and are very helpful.
Was told by the locals that Ethiopians have this paranoid presumption that exposing themselves to the wind in a moving bus will make them susceptible to bad luck, spirit possession, ill health etc.
So don't attempt to open the windows unless you want to have your knuckles rapped, fingers jammed, and eyeballed at throughout your journey.
It wasn't that bad when i was traveling the historical route as it was in the cool highlands. Just a wee bit stuffy...
Transportation is not easy yet in Ethiopia. The regular buses take a lot of time for a few kilometers, make a lot of stops and are usually packed with local people and their bulky bundles which can contain anything... They put them anywhere they can find space in the bus even under your legs. The aisles are never free and they all have to jump over bags and boxes to get out or into the bus again. It's really a mess...
Legs always invade somebody else's space but nobody complains. In many cases I had to stay up all night because they were chewing chat and it was impossible for them to close their eyes and relax. So the best option is to take Sky Bus or Salam Bus if it goes to your destination.
There are more photos...
Big buses cover the longest distances and main destinations. There are not a lot, maybe one or two per day per destination and they leave early in the morning, by 6.00 am, so you need to arrive even earlier to get a place. Buses only leave when they are more or less full (a book with you is a good idea for the waiting) and there are few or no stops during the trip. Although that I found it the best means of transportation around the country and of course the cheapest one.
Buses are found in big Bus Stations, usually not far from the city centre, so it is easy to find them. More difficult is to find the right bus because they have written the destination only in Ahmaric (no way!). Fortunately many people speak few words of English so they will bring you to the bus that you want.
Even if roads were quite good (Ethiopia is developing quickly!) when you move from one city to another one consider a half – full day for that, depending on the destination. It was very tiring but unavoidable :-(
Apart from your ticket usually there is an extra for transporting your bag pack on the roof of the bus. Give a look when they are loading your bag pack to be sure that it is well fixed.
note: usually bus stations are crowded places, not like the one on the picture in Debark under the storm! :-)))
The convenient tricycles, called “bajaj”, can be found anywhere in the cities and towns except for Addis Ababa. They are ridiculously cheap. It is usually 1-2 birr a person and sometimes go up to 5-10 if you carry your luggage. Most of the times they ask for many times more if they see “feretzi”, as they call us, the tourists, but you should explain to them you know the prices and negotiate hard. They always expect that.
In Addis Ababa and a few other big cities the fastest and cheapest way to go anywhere in the city are the vans that take up to 10-12 people and cost 2.5-3b, which is about 0.40 dollar. The local people usually refer to them as "taxi" which confused me in the beginning.
Click on photo..
Ethiopian Airlines was our best international option because it had direct flights Paris – Adis Abbeba at a very interesting prices. Hélas, when we finally decided to go to Ethiopia these tickets were all sold out.
Once in Ethiopia and talking to other visitors we found out that Ethiopian Airlines had more advantages than we thought: if you choose Ethiopian Airlines for your international flight then you have 50% of discount on the local flights!
We flew with Ethiopian Airlines at the end of our trip from Aksum to Addis Abeba. Our time was tight and that avoided us 2 days of bad road for our bottoms and M. K’s bad humour during aaaall the trip. Even if the Aksum airport is not very busy (2-3 flights per day), the take off was delayed. Apart from this the service was good and M. K was happy :-) We booked our flight in the Ethiopian Airlines' office in Aksum, just one day before travelling. During the high season maybe it would be wise to book in advance.
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Bahar Dar, Ethiopia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples
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